Pope Francis urges European leaders to open ports for migrants

The Pope is visiting France. Credit: AP

Pope Francis has urged European leaders to open their ports to people fleeing hardship and poverty.

While in the French port city of Marseille on Saturday, Francis insisted that the continent isn't facing a migration “emergency” but rather a long-term reality that governments must deal with humanely.

He urged French President Emmanuel Macron to help migrants secure legal pathways to citizenship.

In the UK alone, the amount of Channel crossings this year has surpassed 23,000, and Home Secretary Suella Braverman suggested on Saturday that a shake-up of international rules could be needed to tackle the migrant crisis.

Pope Francis meets Emmanuel Macron. Credit: AP

In France, Pope Francis took aim at European countries that have used “alarmist propaganda” to justify closing their doors to migrants, and tried to shame them into responding with charity instead.

He called for the Mediterranean Sea that so many cross to reach Europe to be a beacon of hope, not a graveyard of desperation.

The Mediterranean, Francis told Macron and a gathering of regional bishops, “cries out for justice, with its shores that on the one hand exude affluence, consumerism and waste, while on the other there is poverty and instability.”

The pope's visit to the city in southern France, which drew an estimated 150,000 well-wishers Saturday, comes as Italy’s far right-led government has reacted to a new wave of arriving migrants by threatening to organise a naval blockade of Tunisia and to step up repatriations.

Pope Francis arrives at the Velodrome Stadium, in Marseille, France, to celebrate mass. Credit: AP

The French government, for its part, has beefed up patrols on its southern border to stop migrants in Italy from crossing over.

After the bishops’ meeting ended, Macron and Francis held a private, half-hour meeting.

They spoke about migration issues and a series of other topics, the French presidency said, adding that both leaders share a “joint will” to bring human solutions to the situation.

France is a “host country” to migrants - especially to asylum seekers - and is supporting European solidarity policies, including through financing and fighting human trafficking, the French presidency said.

The Vatican provided no readout of the meeting.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…